As an effort to keep schools open after winter break, California is ramping up its testing opportunities for students in grades K-12.
The San Luis Coastal Unified School District got a head start after being selected to participate in a statewide testing pilot program along with iHealth.
The district received around 9,000 home kits containing two COVID-19 tests each.
“With the hopes that people will voluntarily take the tests three days before they return after the break, and 24 hours before they return from the break,” explained Rick Mayfield, Director of Elementary Learning and Achievement at San Luis Coastal Unified School District. “They are very easy to administer. It takes about 15 minutes for the results to occur.”
On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide effort to keep track of the omicron variant.
“Six million tests, no charge and we are going to be sending those out to our partners up and down the state to allow for priority access for at least one to two tests for our kids before they return to school,” Governor Newsom said.
According to the governor, the state has purchased more than 12 million over-the-counter tests since August, and in early December, they gave out about 2 million tests to schools.
“We are working with community organizations to help us distribute those out, so we are looking at the next couple of weeks to get more of those out to individuals,” added Matt Higgs, the ELC program manager for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
There is another step in this plan.
“Also looking to expand the hours of operation to provide more access to testing in this state,” added Governor Newsom.
As the Omicron variant spreads, county health officials in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties recommend making appointments and verifying hours of operation at testing sites.
“COVID-19 testing is more important than ever as we start to see cases increase, and we've identified the omicron variant here in San Luis Obispo County, so now is the time to get tested,” said Tom Cuddy, a public information officer for the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department.
“We strongly urge community members to get fully vaccinated, to get a booster if you are eligible and wear a mask in public, indoor spaces,” he added.
District officials sent out a letter to parents and staff members explaining how to take these tests as well as instructions on how to submit results, so the state can keep track of case counts.
On Dec. 23, 2021, San Luis Obispo County will be distributing 150 free rapid COVID-19 tests at Ramona Garden Park in Grover Beach starting at 9 a.m. until supplies last.